Bhubaneswar: Expressing concern about sudden jump in the incident of forest fires in Odisha, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Monday urged Union Forest Minister Bhupender Yadav to prepare a long-term action plan for preventing and mitigating future forest fires in Odisha.
Pradhan met his cabinet colleague in Delhi on Monday and submitted a letter in this regard.
In his letter, Pradhan said Odisha has recorded 871 large forest fires since November 1, 2022.
It was followed by Andra Pradesh (754), Karnataka (642), Telangana (447) and Madhya Pradesh (316).
As on Monday, there are 1,840 cases of forest fires in Odisha, out of which 153 are large scale fires. Further, in the last 24 hours, a massive 1,625 incidents of forest fires have been reported in the state, he pointed out.
Stating about 35 per cent of all forest fires in the country are being reported from Odisha, Pradhan said the state has reportedly lost 4,000 hectares of forest area due to forest fire in the last four months.
“Such forest fires not only cause irreparable damage to the land’s flora and fauna but also pose a threat to tribal and farming communities living on the periphery of forests. It destroys their livelihoods earned from MFPs such as timber, mahua flowers, kendu leaves, and medicinal plants,” he said.
Furthermore, it contributes to severe air pollution over urban dwellings and rising temperatures in the state.
“It is imperative to address these ongoing forest fires immediately with swift and coordinated action between the central and state forest departments while coming up with a long-term plan for prevention and mitigation of further forest fires in Odisha,” read the letter.
He suggested Yadav to involve the local community and rejuvenate the existing water bodies inside the forests to control the fires.
Though the Forest and Fire Department have been provided with equipment to deal with forest fires, it is reported that most men have not received training on their usage, he alleged.
Pradhan further said that helicopters and airborne methods need to be adopted for dousing the forest fires in some parts as most of these forest areas are still inaccessible to fire vans on ground.
The Education Minister urged Yadav to convene a meeting with officials of Forest Ministry and the Odisha government for launching urgent measures to contain and subdue the forest fires in the state.
He also requested to set up an empowered committee with representatives from the central and state forest department officials, environmentalists, and forest conservationists for coming up with a detailed long-term action plan for preventing and mitigating future forest fires in Odisha.